Evolution not revolution in cloud services
24 July 2015 | 0
One usefully acid test of any significant new development in ICT is its hype — scrutinised with the authority of hindsight. In that respect it has to be acknowledged that cloud computing, possibly our worst metaphor so far this century, stands up remarkably well. Cloud in essence is the highest level so far of virtualisation and abstraction of processing and the data it works with from the specifics of systems, hardware and location.
So yes indeed, the promises of what we now call public cloud have been fulfilled. Enormous levels of sheer computing power with flexibility and scalability have been made available on a simple subscription basis. Cloud power is certainly now at a commodity level if not quite at the plug and play utility level that was part of the promise.
Looking behind the initial wave of hype to the principles, cloud computing has delivered. When we find ourselves talking about cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service we can see how far the terminology has debased the language. But at this stage it’s very much “never mind, we know what we mean…” At least until another paradigm shifting wave comes along.
As cloud continues to mature in the market we are seeing, probably predictably, clouds of clouds as new services are introduced. The big global public cloud providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, which in many respects offer raw cloud power, have been joined by tiers of complementary and alternative services. There are managed service providers acting as managed front ends for public clouds, similar to VARs in the general software market. There are also major global companies such as IBM, HP, Sun, Dell, VMware, Oracle and of course SaaS pioneer Salesforce.com offering solutions on both public and private cloud.
“A few of us saw this coming — including TechPro magazine — and it is certainly now a hybrid world in most cloud adoption and that clearly continues to be the trajectory of the ICT sector,” said Doug Clark, IBM Cloud Leader for UK and Ireland. “In large measure that is because most organisations have a lot of baggage that does not necessarily fit any kind of one-stop-shop service and probably never will. That is why IBM has developed a portfolio of cloud solutions, each of which is fit for purpose for a certain set of requirements. The real market wants choices other than public hyper-cloud and service providers are offering more and more.”
He gave the example of proximity: for technical (latency) and other reasons, having the cloud data centre physically nearer can be an advantage or even a requirement for certain workloads, like financial services or content delivery. “We have SoftLayer data centres now in London, Amsterdam and other western European locations which are connected by a private, enterprise-grade network. This offers a secure, high performance environment,” Clark says, “with the advantages of proximity and relatively local failover, which only uses the Internet for specific purposes. You could think of it as a ‘bringing the cloud to you’ approach.”
In this new and constantly evolving cloud world, IBM sees two of the key driving factors as Open Standards and technology and service alliances. “OpenStack, for example, is a phenomenon and great in terms of open standards across infrastructure — and IBM is a massive contributor — but the really key thing is that we now have different types of cloud infrastructure for different purposes. They work closely together because we have mastered the orchestration. Then at the platform layer we have Bluemix, which is based on open standards from the Cloud Foundry, with which we also collaborate.”